Tag Archives: selvyn walter

Carib Lit Plus Early to Mid October 2020

A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back.


We’ve reported before on the passing of writer and art collector (also politician but that’s not what we’re here for) Sir Selvyn Walter. Sir Selvyn received an official funeral on October 12th 2020. Per the Daily Observer, “he was the founder of the Halcyon Steel Orchestra, along with Sam and Penod Kirby and Melvin Simon in 1972.” He authored the Daily Observer series Not a Drum was Heard and the book Bank Alley Tales – both capturing the life and times and forgotten culture and people of Antigua and Barbuda. Reportedly, the refurbished art gallery at Government House will be renamed for him. Observer writes, “We have lost one of our finest thinkers and historians – a curator of that which made us who we are.”

Congrats are in Order

For winners of the Catapult Caribbean Arts Grant Stay Home Artist Residency; including familiar (to the Wadadli Pen blog) names like Trinidad and Tobago’s Lisa Allen-Agostini and Shivanee Ramlochan, and the Bahamas’ Sonia Farmer. The residency enables 24 cultural practitioners from the English, Spanish, French, and Dutch Caribbean to be supported to the tune of US$3,000 each while continuing work from home over a two month period.

The Stay at Home Artist Residency is only one of the initiatives supporting Caribbean Creatives during 2020 under the Catapult: Caribbean Artists Grants. It is managed and funded through Kingston Creative, Barbados’ Fresh Milk, and American Friends of Jamaica. Through six initiatives they are supporting the work of Caribbean artists in a year that has sent the entire world in to a tailspin thanks to COVID-19. “These funding opportunities will increase the visibility of over 1,000 Caribbean-based artists, creatives and cultural practitioners to global audiences, provide much needed financial support, and develop the creative skills of our artists.” (Fresh Milk) In addition to the Stay Home Artist Residency (above), there is the Caribbean Artist Showcase, Caribbean Creative Online, Digital Creative Training, Consultancy Vouchers, and Lockdown Virtual Salon – the recipients of which are
“The CATAPULT Lockdown Virtual Salon programme aims to mitigate isolation, especially heightened during the current pandemic, by creating virtual platforms for cultural practitioners to engage in discourse about and explore their evolving practices. These one-hour artist talks from their homes or studios will be live-streamed via the Fresh Milk YouTube channel at 1PM and 4PM AST, every Tuesday and Friday between September 29th & November 20th, 2020.” (Fresh Milk)


This year’s recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature has been named: she is American poet and Yale professor Louise Glück. Here’s a sample of her poetry: Per this BBC article, she is amazingly only the 16th woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature since it was first awarded in 1901. Another woman who was trending as the Nobel announcement drew near was Antigua and Barbuda’s Jamaica Kincaid who was reportedly in top contention. Trinidad-American blogger Keishel Williams wrote after the announcement, in a piece headlined Waiting for Jamaica Kincaid’s Nobel Prize, “Unlike in previous years, I was particularly nervous about this year’s prize. The last time WE won a Noble Prize in Literature was almost twenty years ago and WE have only won this prestigious prize twice in its history – Derek Walcott in 1992 and V.S. Naipaul in 2001. Suffice to say, when Antiguan-born novelist, essayist, and short story writer Jamaica Kincaid was tipped as a top contender for the prize this year, I was over the moon.” The article ended, “WE will another Noble Prize in Literature and I will be there waiting, patiently, when it is awarded to Jamaica Kincaid.” Literature gods willing.


Jamaican writer Diana McCaulay, recently interviewed for a series on publishing here on Wadadli Pen, later adapted for an article in Publishler’s Weekly, has been announced as part of the judging panel for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story prize. An environmental activist and award winning novelist whose books include Dog Heart, Gone to Drift, Huracan, White Liver Gal, and Daylight Soon Come is also a past winner of the prize. The Commonwealth Short Story prize has one judge from each Commonwealth territory. McCaulay is this cycle’s Caribbean judge alongside A. Igoni Barrett (Africa), Khademul Islam (Asia), Keith Jarrett (Canada and Europe), Tina Makereti/(Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rangatahi) (Pacific), and chair South African writer Zoë Wicomb. For information on submitting to the Commonwealth Short Stories Prize and other opportunities, see Opportunities Too here on the blog for details.


Diana again for the release this month of her Peepal Tree book Daylight Come, a Burt award winning title.

Congrats to her.


Monique Roffey, award winning Trinidadian author, has had her latest book, The Mermaid of Black Conch, shortlisted for Goldsmith’s Prize recognizing the best in experimental fiction. The prize is worth 10,000 pounds. Re Roffey’s book, ‘Judge Sarah Ladipo Manyika said: “This is one of those rare gems of a novel that can be read and enjoyed on many levels—it’s a whimsical love story, a history of the Caribbean and its indigenous peoples, an ode to Mother Earth, and an allegory for our times.”’ (quoted here). The winner will be announced on November 11th 2020.

Book Recs

St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee recommends the latest from Ghanian-Jamaican writer Kwame Dawes and UK based Peepal Tree, Natural Mysticism. He describes it as a “page-turner” which isn’t something you often hear of books of this type. I personally remember really liking a previous reggae-themed book of Dawes Bob Marley Lyrical Genius for his breakdown and contextualizing of the universally familiar lyrics.

Lee said of Natural Mysticism, “Others no doubt have written of this seminal, water-shed period of Caribbean life and experience, from the mid- sixties to the mid-eighties (in my reckoning), but for the first time I was studying a closely- observed record of the lives and times and music and ideas that had so moved me and all the companions and lovers and artists among whom I lived in those heady days. Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, Culture, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse … But not only was Kwame Dawes writing a fascinating social and cultural history…but he was making a very bold assertion: that reggae and its spiritual heart of Rastafari, provided an aesthetic that could shape the arts and literature of the new Caribbean already taking shape around us.”


For Coloured Girls. No, not the Tyler Perry movie; the play (“for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf “) by Ntozake Shange, who died in 2018, leaving an indelible mark, in the captured stories of various women’s inner lives. Seven women, including talent and director Wendy ‘Motion’ Brathwaite, who is Antigua-descended, staged a virtual reading of some of the play/book’s classic monologues in an event called For Colored Girls: A RemiX. The reading – consistent with the choreopoem’s use of word, sound, movement, and drama – can be viewed on the Band Gallery channel.

Watching it is reminding me how much I thought Anika Noni Rose was overlooked in Oscars conversation because whatever you thought of the linear framing of the narrative or of Perry’s direction, there were several standout performances, and for me Rose’s, and Loretta Devine’s, were among them. Watch the video, and revisit the book while you’re at it.


Shivanee Ramlochan over at Caribbean Beat, a literary star in her own right, recs three books already on my TBR which should be on yours (either that or your AR – already read): Epiphaneia by Richard Georges (“Here are poems that reward several concentrated readings to mine their full, harrowing flavour”); Black Rain Falling by Jacob Ross, second in his fictional crime series that began with The Bone Readers (“Move over, Agatha Christie — Jacob Ross is in charge”), and Ingrid Persaud’s Love After Love. And Shivanee’s reviews are an art form in themselves. Read this about Love After Love: “Ingrid Persaud steers the world of her novel with a merciless kind of sensitivity, turning the very notion of a tiny existence on its clichéd head, rattling every cupboard in this narrative home for loose change, deep confessions, and dalliances sweeter than Demerara sugar.” So feel free to check out her Forward Prize nominated Everyone Knows I am Haunting which incidentally debuted in October (Happy Anniversary Month, Shivanee) back in 2017.


Perhaps not unexpectedly, regional arts and culture showcase CARIFESTA 2021, scheduled for Antigua and Barbuda, has been pushed back to (August 11-21) 2022. This is according to a report in the Daily Observer newspaper of Friday 9th October 2020.


You can revisit the 2020 virtual Bocas Lit Fest now on their YouTube channel. With over 80 writers, performers, events over three days, there’s a lot to see.


The Caribbean Writer has announced an after-dinner reading affair, part of its Reader Response Discussion Series, for October 15th 2020, 7 to 9 p.m. The will be discussing four pieces from the recently published Volume 34, themed ‘Dignity, Power, and Place in the Caribbean Space’. Here are the details:



Meeting ID: 960 1129 8073

Passcode: 521956

NOTE: If you would like a digital copy of volume 34, order here.

Pay it Forward

I remember Antiguan-Barbudan reggae singer Causion paying it forward for years in the 2000s with his concerts on an open field in his home community of St. Paul’s, cost of entry a canned nonperishable to be dropped in to a barrel for later delivery to those who need it. Now it’s the community’s turn to help him. Observer newspaper reporters that the singer is battling stage 3 colon cancer. Details of his fundraising mission for himself and others in the Daily Observer. Also here’s a direct link to the thankyoumission.com

All things considered, this one seems appropriate

Causion, born Gregory Bailey, performing Put Your Trust in Jah roughly 10 years ago.

New and Forthcoming Books

This is an August 2020 released but I’m not sure I mentioned it – Trinidad and Tobago writer Andre Bagoo’s poetry collection The Undiscovered Country. ‘The Undiscovered Country discovers many things, but one thing for sure: Andre Bagoo is a fearless, brilliant mind. He can take us from the formal critical perspective to new futurist “visual essay”, to verse essay, to sweeping historical account that is unafraid to go as far in time as Columbus and as urgently-of-our moment as Brexit—all of it with precision and attentiveness to detail that is as brilliant as it is startling.’ (Peepal Tree Press)


Scholastic UK has acquired and will be publishing this October the previously self-published Windrush book by Kandace Chimbiri. The Story of the Windrush celebrates the Windrush pioneers who first arrived in London in June 1948. With a mix of historical fact and voices from that generation, the children’s book not only tells the story but underscores its importance in the formation of modern Britain. Chimbiri is a descendent of the generations of Black Caribbean people who travelled that route to make a life for themselves in the UK. She was born in London, England in 1968 to parents from Barbados. The Story of the Windrush was initially published through her Golden Destiny Ltd. independent publishing house, founded in 2009. This info comes via a release put out by Scholastic and reaching us via Barbados’ National Cultural Foundation. In that release, Chimbiri is quoted as saying, “I noticed a lack of diversity in books for children especially in the non-fiction genre. I began by self-publishing my work and am really excited now about working with a publisher who is going to make stories like these available to a much wider audience. I feel that Scholastic understands what I want to achieve. They can see the importance of books like The Story of the Windrush and why they are needed in the world right now.”


Collins (UK) is preparing a rollout of a number of Caribbean titles for its Big Cat series of children’s books. They include non fiction titles Sea Turtles and How to become a Calysonian, and fictional works Turtle Beach, The Jungle Outside, Wygenia and the Wonder of the World Leaf, Finny and the Fairy Fish, and The Lost Sketch Book. Authors and illustrators include Jamaica’s Diana McCaulay, Guyana’s Imam Baksh, St. Kitts-Nevis Carol Mitchell, and others including several from Antigua and Barbuda. Get the run down here on the Wadadli Pen site – and see which Wadadli Pen team members are involved with this series.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Carib Lit Plus Mid to Late September 2020

A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back.

Re-visiting Swallow

We’ve covered the life and death of King Swallow here on the site but wanted to share this link to an Ode to Sir Rupert King Swallow Philo by Patricia Louisa Tully because it contains details about him not previously noted on this site. Like the fact that he competed for the first time in 1962 and earned the second runner up spot that year. When you’ve been crowned as much as he has, these details of ‘lesser’ moments and triumphs get lost in the wash. But for the young calypso aspirant, there was nothing lesser about it. Tully writes, “that night he was driven home in a car loaded with many gifts.” Read about this and the moments to follow including being the first Calypsonian to play the Radio City Music Hall.


Hope you caught some or all of the Bocas virtual events – I was in and out, but was happy to catch Loretta Collins Klobah and Maria Grau Perejoan launching and discussing The Sea needs No Ornament/El Mar no necesita Ornamento. The discussion of how they approached translation of the works was quite interesting – especially the challenge of capturing the creole – and how they didn’t do a back and forth but a face to face in real time interactive translation process, trading off who led with Spanish to English, English to Spanish making for a very dynamic sort of experience, made more so by bouncing here to there in the wake of hurricane Maria, given that these face to face interactions were in 2017 in Puerto Rico. I would love to read this book, which is already a PEN Award recipient, especially so after hearing virtual readings from the likes of Ann-Margaret Lim of Jamaica and Danielle Boodoo Fortune of Trinidad and Tobago among others.  You may have missed the live but you can catch this and other videos on the Bocas fest facebook page and on their youtube.

And now comes the Brooklyn Caribbean Book Festival, also virtual as so much has to be under the shadow of a global pandemic. The dates are September 28th to October 5th. It’s big with nearly 140 independent publishers and literary organizations already occupying the digital marketplace – including some well known to the Caribbean literary community like Akashic Books, Blue Banyan Books, Caribbean Reads Publishing, and many others. Scheduled authors include some that should be familiar to us here in Antigua and Barbuda – like Tina Chang, Donna Hill, Marlon James, who’ve participated in events here.

Self-care Tips and a Book Rec from Anti-Racist Educator

Dena Simmons is a PhD holding US educator with Antiguan roots who has has continued to educate in these pandemic and social fed-uprising times. See her recent you tube video on six ways to be an antiracist educator, or follow her on twitter where she’s been providing #quaranteaching tips and where you can also sign up for her newsletter. In her most recent newsletter she provides self-care tips which I think we might find useful whether we’re teachers or not. These include 10 minutes of mindful breathing, 30 minutes of movement, 7-8 hours of sleep, eating nutritiously, finding a self-care accountability buddy, and setting boundaries (saying no). Her collective care tips include asking people in our life what they need, checking in with others and being okay to be met with silence, offering a listening ear, going on a physical distance walk with a buddy or agree to call your accountability buddy from respective locations, or ordering someone dinner from afar. Her newsletter typically involves a book rec and this time it’s Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom which she described as “quick, informative, and delightful.”

Speaking of book recs, I recently finished Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes, award winning African American author and past Wadadli Pen prize donor (her book Ninth Ward), which I described as “A really good and I would say necessary read for anyone trying to understand what we mean when we say Black Lives Matter; or anyone just in the market for a good story.”

New Film, Co-written by an Antiguan-Canadian, debuts at TIFF

Motion, a Canadian writer with Antiguan roots, co-wrote a feature film Akilla’s Escape which had its digital world premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Akilla’s Escape, produced Canesugar Filmworks, is co-written and directed by Charles Officer and stars Saul Williams, Saul Williams, Thamela Mpumlwana, Donisha Prendergast, Ronnie Rowe Jr., Olunike Adeliyi, Shomari Downer, Colm Feore, Bruce Ramsay, and Vic Mensa.  Synopsis: “During what is supposed to be a simple, routine handoff, 40-year-old drug trader Akilla Brown is suddenly caught in the middle of a violent robbery. Narrowly making it out alive, he captures one of the thieves, a teenaged Jamaican boy named Sheppard. Under the pressure of the criminals who hired him, Akilla must set things right and retrieve the stolen goods over the course of one arduous night. When Akilla discovers that Sheppard’s gang has ties to the Garrison Army, the same crime organization he fell into as a child, he has to confront his own traumatic origins and becomes compelled to help the boy survive — and possibly even make the escape that he never could. Set in parallel timelines in present-day Toronto and 1990s Brooklyn, Akilla’s Escape illustrates how the oppressive cycle of violence manifests in different generations and just how difficult it is to break.” It is “sensitively rendered neo-noir–meets–coming-of-age story”. (Cameron Bailey)

Akilla’s Escape, which is eligible for the TIFF People’s Choice Award, is part of TIFF 2020’s special Planet Africa 25

2020 Claims Another Antiguan Icon

Antigua and Barbuda has so far this year lost its share (more than, some would say) of artists and writers and journalists (former University Centre resident tutor Edris Bird,  former calypso King, in the case of Edimelo, and Vision Band member Edimelo and Eric Peters, historical writer Keithlyn Smith, who  received an official funeral on September 15th after dying on July 31st 2020, pan builder with Hell’s Gate steel orchestra Eustace Manning Henry, founding member of Harmonites George ‘Macko, Nuni’ Weekes, photographer and writer Timothy Payne); and now 2020 has claimed Selvyn Walter within less than a week of the passing of calypso legend Swallow. Walter, brother of former Premier and national hero George Walter, came to prominence as a politician when he won a seat on the opposition PLM ticket  in 1971. His career in politics was relatively short-lived. He was also known as a businessman and most significantly as a writer and journalist – notably as Daily Observer columnist (Not a Drum was heard) and published author (Bank Alley Tales), and an art collector and archivist.

Selvyn Walter

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Bert Williams Place of Birth

ETA: (July 18th 2018) Cleaning up this post as much as I can because facts matter. So that’s why the title “Bert Williams Born in Antigua” has been adjusted to Bert Williams Place of Birth – from an assertion to a discussion because we have our belief on this here in Antigua (The now dormant Performing Arts Society of Antigua and Barbuda even once had an award in his name and, I believe, that Tourism may have used him in marketing) but different sources say different things. However, there does seem to be some consensus if not certainty.


In the original post I quoted this article which referenced people who could attest to Bert’s place of birth being Antigua:

“During my subsequent research on Bert Williams, I discovered that several countries had claimed that Bert was born there. Bermuda has claimed him. The Bahamas have claimed him and Jamaica has claimed him. Can one man be born in four places ? No!

I have read where Bert has said that he was born in Swetes Village in Antigua.”

So writes Selvyn Walter in the May 30th 2013 edition of his Of Dis ‘n Dat column, entitled Who then is an Antiguan? Read it in full here.

I also shared this link:

Also read my thoughts on the Antigua-less version of Williams’ life in Caryl Philips’ Dancing in the Dark in my book blog here – the jumps are temperamental though, so you may need to scroll.

I then reported this:

ETA (May 29th 2018): Wikepedia says no. Do your own research but here’s a link to Wikepedia’s take on the Antigua v. Bahamas debate which, if the verifying sources check out (and I can’t independently confirm that they do), at minimum puts a question mark on Antigua’s claim.

So since this post I’ve been having discussions with a researcher who shared some other links with me and doing some additional research of my own.

First, who is Bert Williams.

The Encyclopedia of World Biography sums him up as a Bahamas-born African-American comedian and singer who lived between 1874–1922, and in that time “was a phenomenally popular figure in the field of American theatrical entertainment during his heyday in the first two decades of the twentieth century.” He was bar-none a pioneer in American entertainment – keep in mind that this was the time of black face and exclusion and yet he carved out a space for himself as a Black man albeit a Black man in black face given the very limited opportunities. He didn’t just play the game though. The cake walk dance for which Williams and Walker (his partner, their brand) were famed was “a comic black imitation of white society dances that in turn became popular among white audiences”. Am I the only one seeing a similarity between this and The Fresh Prince’s Carlton dance (in the 1990s)? Anyway, he, also, wrote his own songs, and created his own opportunities mounting all black theatrical productions, which were groundbreaking in America, first of their kind, and which toured England and was hugely influential in America. It’s noteworthy as well that he was the first black star of the established and renowned Broadway theatrical revue Ziegfeld Follies. Making him a first for Broadway.

No wonder we all want to claim him, right? But as Philips’ book Dancing in the Dark attests, it all came at a price.

But back to the point of this post-update. The Encyclopedia of World Biography goes on to assert the Antigua connection through his mother, Julia Monceur, who was from Antigua. (which totally counts). Black History Now says she was the daughter of a clergyman from Antigua and that his father was a sometime sailor and waiter, but that, yes, he was born in the Bahamas. Williams grandfather on his father’s side was a Danish diplomat in Antigua, according to the American Heritage website.

Both the Encyclopedia of World Biography and the American Heritage website assert that Bahamas is his place of birth. But in discussion with a local researcher, I was pointed to another source which said, ‘Over the years, conflicting details have been published about Bert Williams’ beginnings. He was born Egbert Austin Williams on November 12, 1874, in either New Providence, Nassau, or Antigua, West Indies. In her seminal 1970 book Nobody: The Bert Williams Story, Ann Charters described, “His paternal grandfather had been Svend Erick Williams, the Danish consul in Antigua, who married a West Indian girl who was three-quarters Spanish and one-quarter African. Their only child was Frederick Williams, Bert’s father, who married a West Indian quadroon named Julia Moncuer.” Tall, broad-shouldered, and light-skinned, Bert was raised in the British West Indies until 1885. His parents moved to Riverside, California, where his father worked as a train conductor. In his youth Bert became skilled on banjo, piano, and other instruments. He graduated from Riverside High School and briefly attended Stanford University. For a while he worked San Francisco’s rough Barbary Coast with a song-and-dance act.’ – Jas Obrecht Music Archives.

You see my confusion.

In Conversations with Caryl Philips (p. 144, edited by Renee T. Schatteman, published 2009, University Press of Mississippi), the Dancing in the Dark author is quoted as saying, “there are two biographies of him…the most fundamental fact that a biographer has to pin down is where somebody was born, and these two biographies both arrived at different places: one said Antigua and one said the Bahamas…I am 99.9 percent sure he was born in the Bahamas, and I think that is an established fact now.”

Certainly authorities in historical research like Henry Louis Gates Jr. (co-editor with Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham of African American Lives from Oxford University Press, 2004) assert that he is Bahamian, son of Frederick Williams Jr., a waiter, and Julia Monceur. And the Biographical Appendix (P. 526) The Papers of Will Rogers edited by Arthur Frank Wertheim and Barbara Bair explains that “Williams protected some of the details of his family’s private life from public knowledge, and as a result there is some dispute among biographers over his birthplace and family history. His parents, Frederick Williams, Jr., and Julia Monceur Williams, named him Egbert Austin Williams. It is most often said that he was born in the city of Nassau, on New Providence (Bahamas)…others give his birthplace as Antigua…through his paternal grandparents he was of mixed Danish, Spanish, and African heritage. His grandfather, Frederick K. or Svend Eric Williams, was Danish. A former diplomat, he was a landowner in the Caribbean. He married Emiline Arymbrister, a woman of Spanish and African descent, who was from the West Indies, and they had a son Frederick Williams, Jr. Frederick married Julia Monceur.”

So there you have it. He has Antiguan roots (i.e. he people come from yah) if not fixed Antiguan birth (?) That’s about as much time as I can devote to this. Do your own research. If you find a source more definitive than any listed, be sure to share.

The image used in this post is credited to William McKenzie Robinson and archived at Broadway Photographs.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.


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